Liberal frontbencher Joe Hockey has sought to hose down criticism of Tony Abbott's "sex appeal" gaffe by drawing attention to comments made by former prime minister Julia Gillard about the former Defence chief, Angus Houston.
The Opposition Leader , the Liberal candidate for the western Sydney seat of Lindsay.
When asked to compare her to previous Liberal MP Jackie Kelly, Mr Abbott said: "They're young, feisty, I think I can probably say have a bit of sex appeal and they're just very connected with the local area."
The Government has seized on the remarks, saying they sit against the backdrop of Ms Gillard's
"I think it's consistent with his views that he's expressed for many years. I didn't find it surprising," Finance Minister Penny Wong said this morning.
But Mr Hockey says it all comes down to Mr Abbott's intentions.
"Frankly Tony, as he said, was being happy and exuberant and supportive. It comes down to what your intentions are, and I know there were no ill intentions," he told Radio National Breakfast.
He says before taking aim at Mr Abbott, people should look at comments made by Ms Gillard while she was prime minister.
"If people say that [reflects] a problem with women, what about what Julia Gillard said about the chief of the Defence Force?" he said.
The treasury spokesman was making an apparent reference to comments the ousted prime minister made about Angus Houston in 2011.
Ms Gillard addressed Mr Houston's wife, Liz, while .
"I wanted to say to you tonight some words you might find hard to hear and that is: every woman I know is a little bit in love with your husband," Ms Gillard said.
"I've tested the proposition with the Governor-General, who's a little bit in love with your husband; I'm a little bit in love with your husband."
"We're all a little bit in love with Angus because of his qualities, and don't they just shine through?"
Mr Abbott played down his remarks yesterday, saying he was simply being "exuberant" when reporters asked him about Ms Scott, who is running for the seat held by Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury by a margin of 1.1 per cent.
This morning, he again laughed off the issue.
"Look, as the kids suggested to me, I had a dad moment. A daggy dad moment," he said.
Coalition finance spokesman Andrew Robb has also defended his leader, saying the comment was made "largely in jest".